In the lead up to the launch of Marvel’s first Netflix show, Daredevil – which is fantastic, by the way – I delved into Matt Murdock’s recent adventures in the form Devil at Bay, the first volume of Daredevil under the Marvel Now! label. Unlike many of the Marvel Now! books, Daredevil maintained its preceding creative team of writer Mark Waid and illustrator Chris Samnee – and for good reason. Waid and Samnee revitalised Daredevil after too many years of dark, harrowing and overly-gritty stories, which eventually (in this reader’s opinion) outstayed their welcome. It’s incredible how a slight shift in tone reinvigorated my interest; not that the series is suddenly sunshine and lollipops, but by leaning more into its superhero roots, Daredevil has once again become a Must Read series.
Following the events of its preceding volume, Matt Murdock has been outed as Daredevil, and thus been disbarred from practicing law in New York. Determined to continue serving the people as both a masked crusader and as a lawyer, Matt and his new partner, Kirsten McDuffie, have moved to San Francisco. Coincidentally, so has Daredevil’s long-time nemesis, The Owl, who’s none too pleased at Daredevil’s new base of operations; neither is the enigmatic vigilante The Shroud. This trio’s confrontation is the core storyline in Devil at Bay, and emphasises the intriguing directions Daredevil’s new status quo can take.
Beyond the Owl / Shroud / Daredevil skirmish, this volume also presents the ‘death’ of Foggy Nelson, in a wonderfully entertaining single issue, which sees the portly Foggy save New York from certain annihilation. It’s delightfully preposterous, but incredibly heartfelt, and showcases the deft line treaded by Waid and Samnee. The artist’s layouts are never less than ingenious; Samnee is one of the best storytellers in comics, with a wonderful knack of producing emblematic moments that deserve framing. Highlights here include Matt Murdock, clad in a suit and tie, dropping into a fiery death trap, and Daredevil’s fist careening into the face of a hovering villain.
Devil at Bay also includes the short story Daredevil: Road Warrior, originally released as a digital-only tale. Written by Waid, and illustrated by his frequent collaborator Peter Krause, Road Warrior explains Matt and Kirsten’s journey from New York to San Francisco; which, as you can imagine, takes several unexpected detours when a man without a heartbeat snares Matt’s attention. It’s an action-packed romp, and deals with a complicated moral issue over what it truly means to be alive, and is a nice counterpart to Waid and Samnee’s story.
Daredevil, Volume 1: Devil at Bay is a delight. Readers jumping in from the Netflix show might be startled by the comic’s lighter tone – but they’ll be appeased by the grittier runs by writers Miller, and Bendis, and Brubaker. But for everyone else, those just seeking a quality superhero comic, should look no further.